Reviewed by Steven Pirie
Short Stories by Sue Phillips
Illustrations by Karl Owens
Take a host of short stories and tie them loosely around a place and time. Add a little divine intervention, a dark, mysterious mirror, a leeching spirit locked away in a mobile phone, a bus driver who has his own idea of time (don't they all?). Throw in a giant spider and the demonic representation of terminal illness, a tiddlywinks championship and a twist-in-the-tale spiritualists' meeting, and you probably still won't come up with something similar to The Waldorf Street Paradox.
You won't, because Waldorf Street is more than the sum of its parts. Sue Phillips, with her easy, unimposing writing style, has created a collection of stories that are a delight to read.
The scene is set with a short prologue that tells of divine shenanigans during 'the time before time', and is itself a direct lead-in to the first story--the award winning tale The Dark Mirror. Set amongst a curiosity shop in an altogether gentler age, the lustful Mr Breme gets more than he bargained for in his pursuit of spinster Mrs Hunmanby. Without wishing to add too many spoilers, the breaking of the mirror at the end of the tale is responsible for much of the fractured reality in the tales that follow.
And the reality most definitely is fractured. There's the bus driver, for one, who finds an almost timeless paradise in the old bus depot in Waldorf Street. But, of course, he and his elderly passenger soon learn there's a dark side to all such places, and the tale twists and turns in its three parts often in the strangest of fashion. And there's the odd tale Website, of giant spiders and pasts that come back to haunt, or to linger. Superb, imaginative stuff.
The only criticism I have of this work is in its length, and then only for positive reasons in that having enjoyed the stories so much I wanted more. At 125 pages it wasn't difficult to finish at one sitting, something I personally don't like to do as I always feel part of the experiencing of a good book is the wait to return to it, if you see what I mean.
Because by its very nature the work is fragmented, Phillips provides a short epilogue to tie up loose ends, particularly in the cases where the Waldorf link is tenuous. And together with the prologue, this epilogue works well, bringing the work together into a (almost!) coherent whole.
All in all, a most enjoyable read.
The Waldorf Street Paradox, 125pp, £10.00
Published by Rainfall Books, ISBN 0-9546178-9-4
Available from http://www.spiralthreads.com
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